Housing Complex

Dear Jeff Bezos: Don’t Go To Northern Virginia!

Bisnow is reporting that Seattle-based Amazon.com is sniffing around the Dulles Toll Road for 80,000 square feet of office space, which means they're bringing about 400 employees. They talked to some folks who know why this could be:

Northern VA's biggest asset is its workforce. The TechAmerica Foundation's Matthew Kazmierczak tells us tech firms are attracted to three things: “Talent, other tech companies, and capital, and Northern Virginia has all of them.” In addition to a large cache of federal IT gurus, NoVa also enjoys access to some of the country's finest schools and biggest institutions. That translates to a “pipeline of potential workers and clients.”

Balderdash! Everybody knows the next generation of the tech industry is in D.C., not the snoozy suburbs. Here are ten reasons why you, CEO Jeff Bezos, should take your talents to the District:

  1. Sure, the Dulles Toll Road is right on the way to Dulles Airport, which has six daily non-stop flights to Seattle, when National Airport only has two. I'm sure that can be rectified.
  2. Sure, corporate income and commercial property taxes are a hell of a lot higher in D.C. than Virginia. But wait! You're a tech company, which means you get all kinds of tax breaks! Tell me that's not appealing.
  3. Sure, D.C.'s universities haven't exactly been tech powerhouses. But the University of Maryland has been, for a long time now, and we're closer to them than Dulles is!
  4. I'm not sure what you want all your new office workers to do, but if it's anything federal government-related, the District is a lot more convenient than Tysons Corner. Must I introduce you to Washington traffic? If you really must deal with the military, the Pentagon has a Metro stop.
  5. Okay, according to you, Alexandria and Arlington read more than Washingtonians. But according to other people, D.C.'s the most literate city in America. So let's call it a draw.
  6. The District is going all out to lure Microsoft to St. Elizabeths. There's definitely room for you too. It could be like a Seattle-away-from-Seattle, complete with a biodiesel processing facility and barista training academy!
  7. Speaking of Seattle: You're building a pretty snazzy headquarters out there, making a just-outside-downtown neighborhood into an urban paradise. Should you settle for everything less for your East Coast employees?
  8. Speaking of employees: Bright young tech geek density is building here, and they don't like having to get in a car to hit a bar after work. In fact, there usually is no "after work," and they'd prefer to come to the office in sweatpants. Hard to do in an anonymous office park somewhere.
  9. Did I mention the city government wants you here? "We'd be delighted to help Amazon expand its presence in the District," said D.C.'s director of business development and strategy David Zipper, who could barely contain his excitement. Take that to the bank!
  10. Yeah, commercial office rents in Northern Virginia average about $30 per square foot, and in D.C. they're about $50. But it gets more expensive in the attractive places, like Alexandria and Arlington, and nowheresville Northern Virginia is terrible.

Take it from a Seattleite: You belong here. Make it happen.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

  • http://www.justupthepike.com dan reed!

    To play devil's advocate: if Amazon is willing to invest heavily/redevelop a neighborhood in Seattle, what's to say they couldn't do the same in Northern Virginia? There is demand for urban living in the suburbs, and it's already happening in places like Merrifield and Tysons Corner. So that's not necessarily a reason to stay in D.C.

    A side note: The move back to the city, particularly among twenty-somethings, is significant, but let's not discount all the young people who live outside the city and will probably stay there (because it's more affordable or their family's closer or, in the case of NoVA, there are A LOT of jobs). It's not like everyone in Fairfax County is 45 and married.

  • http://www.ajfroggie.com Froggie

    To elaborate on Dan's comment, we could easily fit them into a proposed development kitty-corner to Huntington Metro. Adjacent to Metro and the Beltway, right next to Alexandria (the "most literate city"), less traffic than DC or Tysons, and in a neighborhood that supports denser development. A win-win!

  • inlogan

    No! Please move to VA and not DC. If they set up shop in DC, I bet they'll have to start withholding DC sales taxes on items purchased!

  • The Java Master

    If you stay in DC one second longer than necessary I will void your licenses to use Java Script.

  • Mary-Austin

    We don't want these damn progressives here. What in the hell are they going to do for the native Washingtonians? Boy bye.

  • Jake

    Actually, your reason number 1 cannot be rectified--the Department of Transportation maintains a fixed number of "beyond-perimeter slot exemptions" out of National, which are flights to destinations more than 1,250 miles away. Seattle currently has two, and there isn't room for any more under current law.

  • Will

    My guess is they want to be next to Ashburn data centers. Sadly DC lacks enough carrier neutral facilities. If that's fixed, you'll see a lot more tech companies.

  • BehradB

    With such a success with their urban campus in Seattle as seen here: http://www.theatlanticcities.com/jobs-and-economy/2012/03/how-amazon-got-urban-campus-right/1485/ why wouldn't they continue that trend here in DC? I'm totally with Lydia DePillis on this one!

  • Joe

    @Jake, check the news, they just changed the law earlier this week, I'm pretty sure they can do it again. Seems fairly easy.

  • puzzled

    very amusing. I doubt they would go to DC, or that, if they got VA - they would go to Huntington or Mosaic - presumably they want to be on the way to Dulles.

    If we want them to do something urbanist, lets hope they do a quality urbanist thing near one of the Silver Line stops in Reston, Herndon, or Loudoun, and not a sprawling campus in Loudoun. RTC is about the closest to having actual things to do out there, and if they located close to it, there could really be some critical mass going. I'm sure FFX cty would prefer they locate in Tysons (THAT would be a big boost) but I'm not sure they fit in with the culture there.

  • RJ


    It is not easy. Yes it can be done, but adding flights is a full on political fight. First you need an act of congress to expand the 1,250-mile "perimeter" flight cap. Then you have to get DOT to pick Seattle, while every congressman from districts beyond the perimeter lobbies (or threatens)for their airport to be selected.

  • NE John

    I work in Reston and live in DC. Reston stinks! The food is awful! The scenery is boring! The architecture, well, uggh too.

  • Meg

    The Toll Road is hardly nowheresville. And here's what, it doesn't smell like sewer in the summer, there's trees, and you don't bump into an obnoxious hipster everytime you get into an elevator.

  • Sharon Ambrose

    Lydia is absolutely right. And St. E's isn't the only attractive parcel.
    How about Reservation 13 -- the community driven plan for the parcel could easily accommodate Amazon. You can see the Capitol and Congress, have a Metro stop on site, easy access to U of MD as well as both National and BWI airports, not to mention the Pentagon, and some of the hottest, trendiest housing for young professionals in the nation. And, of course, Nationals park.
    There is also Poplar Point -- a Metro stop at the edge, fabulous views of the city, a quick water taxi from the Navy Yard and USDOT, the Congress, the Pentagon, Georgetown, and only a slightly longer (hoverboat?) ride to Alexandria. Still easy access to National, BWI and U of MD, and right down the road from the federal complex at St. E's. Super convenient to all the fab new housing in Capital Quarter, the Yards, and what will soon be the new SW for all those highly paid workers who will be lined up for jobs.
    And it doesn't stop there. How about the Walter Reed site? Somewhat less exciting from my personal point of view, but definitely a possibility. And there's also the McMillan Reservoir site. The city could cut a good deal on that one 'cause it's a little tougher sell. And I bet Councilmember-elect Kenyon McDuffie would love to help work a deal.
    It will be a tragic failure of vision and competence if the city doesn't stop messing around with chasing retailers in Vegas,trying to bolster the same old failed job training programs, and ferreting out ethics violations, and begin to actively pursue the tech sector and the election of city officials who are both creative and honest.

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